Following a bit of research last spring, councilman Dick Ramsay brought to light a small piece of property that may be viable for a new boat ramp in Marathon, thus alleviating the often-crowded ramps and parking lots scattered throughout the city.
Ocean Drive near Valhalla Point Resort is like many of the city’s streets that end at the water. The property is contention is the additional 50 feet or so between the end of the pavement and the beginning of the water.
Ramsay expressed in the meeting that his concern was not as much the possibility of repairing the existing boat ramp but rather the liability to the city.
Abandoning the property could possibly open “Pandora’s Box” with other such street ends throughout the city, Ramsay suggested.
“This is not something I’m personally wrapped up in, but I feel the residents of the city should be entitled the use of those properties,” Ramsay said.
Cheryl Wilcox, one of the lone residents along Ocean Drive, said with public access currently available for launching kayaks and canoes at Curry Hammock State Park, neither she nor her neighbors were in favor or reconfiguring the end of her quiet, secluded street.
Ted Dominique, managing partner for Valhalla Developments, said when his company secured a bank loan to develop the tract of land running the majority of Ocean Drive, they had clear title to the property.
“There was never any indication of the city owning this property,” he contended.
Nancy Schofield, owner of Valhalla Point Resort, said her guests have been swimming undisturbed along the beaches at the end of the Ocean Drive for decades.
If the city opts to abandon the property, which they must do through public hearing, the land would be split 50/50 between the two adjacent property owners.
Mayor Ginger Snead, who suggested “letting sleeping dogs lie,” said removing the vegetation and power lines as well as repairing the uneven surfaces of what appear to be an existing ramp are not a priority for the city.
After going to see the property Tuesday afternoon, Councilman Rich Keating said there would be no possible way to put a boat ramp at the end of that road.
Marathon Vice-Mayor Mike Cinque said, “People at the end of these roads do have a right to privacy, and I don’t think we want to encourage commercial development there just because the city owns 25 feet of waterfront.”
With that, Ramsay motioned to abandon the property by way of public hearing. Councilman Pete Worthington and Keating voted against the motion, which passed with favorable votes from Cinque and Snead.
In Other Business:
• One of the first items of the meetings was motioned for extension by the mayor. Council appointments to various boards and advisory committees have long been a topic of discussion among the council. Mayor Snead motioned to postpone appointments to the code board and planning commission in order to discuss the methodology.
“We need to each appoint members to boards and committees that run the term of our office,” Snead suggested. “That way, everybody knows who they’re appointing and the process.”
Cinque echoed her opinion individual council members should be able to appoint representatives with similar views as their own.
“Why would you ever want to have a politically appointed code board?” Worthington questioned.
Snead said the appointments ultimately become a popularity contest and no fresh ideas or thoughts ever winds up at the table.
“I just want to extend the terms of code board and planning commission appointments for 90 days until we can revisit the appointment process,” Snead concluded.
• Dirt discussions continued as Planning Director George Garrett presented an ordinance to allow property owners to begin utilizing the excess fill dirt left over from the on-going sewer installation project.
“Applicants will have to provide site plans, proposed elevations and stormwater plans,” Garrett explained. “You wouldn’t be able to place fill on a site where an environmental permit is required. This is strictly for scarified lots, not for storage. This will be permanently place fill.”
• Florida Keys Contractors Association President Chris Gratton questioned the council’s building permit ordinance. He told the council that as it was written at the second reading just prior to enactment, his organization could not fully support the ordinance.
“The city needs to get their paperwork in order before they can ask homeowners or contractors to endorse this,” Gratton stated, asking for further clarification that the ordinance would not be retroactive.
City attorney John Herrin said since the federal and state constitutions state that newly enacted laws cannot apply ex post facto, city staff did not feel it had to be stated in the ordinance.
After quite a bit of discussion, staff agreed that in order to resolve close open building permits that were currently preventing contractors from pulling new permits, the building department is going to have to resolve their technical problems with the current record keeping system.
Marathon City Marina Harbormaster Austin DiRenzo was recognized by the mayor and council for five years of service to the city.
The sliver of property at the end of Ocean Drive is owned by the city, but it may be abandoned and split between adjacent property owners – Valhalla Developments, whose undeveloped property is currently in foreclosure and Valhalla Point Resort, a quaint beach motel.